States of Work: #MeToo, Medical Marijuana, Sick Leave

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By Chris Marr

Keep up with the various state and local laws that touch on labor, employment, and benefits issues with this “States of Work” roundup. Bloomberg Law’s correspondents bring you a select taste of what’s going on throughout the country.

Calif.'s Movie-Maker #MeToo Tax Break

Regulatory responses to the #MeToo movement continue to trickle out of statehouses, including a recent proposal in California targeting the film and television industry.

Film and TV production companies would have to provide their written policies against unlawful workplace harassment in order to apply for a tax credit offered by the California Film Commission.

In response to the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein abuse scandal, California lawmakers included the requirement in a state budget package sent to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) June 18 that extends the tax credit program for five years. Brown is expected to sign it by July 1. Applicants also would have to say how they’re working to increase representation of minorities and women in some job categories.

The California legislature also could see enhancements to its own sexual harassment policies. A legislative subcommittee published draft recommendations June 18. Among the suggestions, the panel proposed staff training, an independent unit to receive and investigate reports of harassment, and protections against retaliation for staff members who report an incident.

Sick Leave, Mary Jane in Maine

While the legal use of medical marijuana is growing, workers shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for employers to pay for it.

In a June 14 decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that federal law prohibits an employer from being forced to pay for medical marijuana treatments. The case involved an injured worker at Twin Rivers Paper Co., who wanted the company’s workers’ compensation fund to pay for his medical marijuana.

But there could be good news ahead for ailing workers in Portland, Maine, where the city council is considering an ordinance requiring paid sick leave for all private-sector and government employees in the city. A council subcommittee received testimony June 12 that the ordinance would cost the city $400,000 to implement and monitor.

Missouri Cities ‘Ban the Box’

In St. Louis County, Mo., applicants for county government jobs won’t have to answer a question about criminal history on their initial job applications. County Executive Steve Stenger signed an executive order June 11 to remove the question from applications, following in the footsteps of local and state governments around the country that have opted to “ban the box.”

The Show Me State cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia all have passed ban-the-box measures, and Missouri’s state government has had a similar policy in place since April 2016.

Geographic Grab Bag

In other labor and employment news from the states:

  • A state report on women’s employment and earnings in North Carolina finds a narrowing pay gap but also a decline in the proportion of women in the labor force over a 14-year period.
  • The Tar Heel State also would ease employer requirements related to unemployment insurance under a bill sent to the governor June 15, such as delaying a 10-day deadline for employer responses to claims and excluding direct sellers from insurance requirements.
  • The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a flurry of harassment-related lawsuits against employers, including allegations against a New Mexico staffing agency.
  • West Virginia state employees might avoid paying part of their wage increases toward higher health insurance premiums, after Gov. Jim Justice (R) asked the state Public Employees Insurance Association to adjust the salary ranges in its rate tiers to prevent premiums going up. Justice announced his request via Twitter on June 19.
  • Boston police officers, firefighters, and EMTs will receive workplace sensitivity training on issues of gender, race, and sexual orientation, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) announced June 14, following previous sessions on sexual harassment and gender and racial bias.

Know of any interesting labor and employment developments in your area? Email Chris Marr at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com.

With reporting by Andrew Ballard in Raleigh, Chris Brown in St. Louis, Brenna Goth in Phoenix, Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, and Aaron Nicodemus in Boston

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